The Employee Handbook: The Holy Grail of Your Business

Employee handbooks address the who, what, where, why, and how of your business operations.  Your employee handbook will protect you and your business by setting appropriate expectations, and providing consistency for your employees when situations arise.

What Information Should an EmployeeHandbook Include?

Ideally, employee handbooks address anything significant related to your company, employees, operating policies, and applicable laws – as well as how rules and policies are followed and/or enforced.  The following topics are commonly addressed in employee handbooks:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws.  Business owners must comply with EEO laws concerning all forms of discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on various protected classes under federal, state and local law, such as race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, or veteran status.

Employee handbooks need to detail which laws are applicable, state that the company complies with them, and address the procedures for employees to voice concerns (e.g., filling out a form, consulting with a supervisor, or bringing something to the attention of Human Resources).  

  • Compensation / Benefits.  Business owners should also describe the types of compensation and benefits that are available to employees, including information related to eligibility and procedures for receiving them. Several important topics to address in an employee handbook are:
  • Bonuses
    • Deductions for benefits (availability and eligibility for health insurance, retirement plans, and wellness programs)
    • Disability (long and short time)
    • Lunch and break periods
    • Overtime pay
    • Pay schedules
    • Performance reviews
    • Wage increases
    • Sick/vacation pay
    • Tax deductions (federal and state)
    • Timekeeping policies
    • Workers’ compensation
  • Work Schedules.  Explain your business’s policy regarding an employee’s work schedule.  Discuss absences, attendance, regular and flexible schedules, punctuality, reporting, telecommuting, and how the company handles non-compliance.
  • Standards of Conduct.  Describe expectations (and consequences) for employee conduct regarding ethical behavior, dress code, demeanor, communications, disciplinary measures, performance improvement programs, termination, and anything applicable to government regulations.
  • Physical Safety.  Illustrate how your company complies with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and outline how employees should report and respond to accidents, injuries, potential safety hazards, bad weather conditions, health and other safety related issues.
  •  IT Safety.  It is also incredibly important that you address technology and internet security issues (involving both hardware and software) by having clear and concise rules stated in the employee handbook. Included in these rules should be steps to keep company data safe (e.g., updating passwords, installing firewalls, storing and locking computers when not in use, guidelines for installing anti-malware software, and policies regarding personal use of a business-owned computer).  It’s also a good idea to outline the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Leave Policies.  Describe your company’s policy on the various types of leave: medical leave covered under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), jury duty, military leave, vacation, holiday, sick time, bereavement, maternity and paternity leave, and any other types of leave your company offers.  It goes without saying, but make sure your company’s policies are compliant with federal and state laws.

Does Every Business Need A Handbook?

If you operate a sole proprietorship with no employees, a handbook isn’t necessary. However, if you add just one employee, the game changes.  Every employee (even if it’s just one) needs to understand the company’s rules, what is expected of the employee, the consequences for failing to adhere to the rules, and any benefits the employee is entitled to.

Make sure that every employee receives a copy of the handbook and signs a document stating that he or she has read, understands, and will comply with the policies.  There’s nothing like ending up in court and having an employee say, “I didn’t know that was against the rules….”

What to Do Next

If you need help creating a new employee handbook or revising your existing employee handbook, give us a call. We are here to assist you so the relationship between you and your employees can be a happy and prosperous one.

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